about this blog

I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

two books about pigeons

A Pigeon and A Boy, by Israeli novelist Meir Shalev, is about the relationship between two handlers of homing pigeons. It was an enjoyable story, and in addition enabled me to understand the significant role that homing pigeons have played throughout history, as messengers.
OK - so the pigeons in my garden may not be homing pigeons, but I like to think of them as close cousins, and worthy of respect. Like possums, pigeons badly need advocates to correct the widespread dislike and scorn they endure.

In his book Pigeons: the Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird, Andrew Blechman tells us everything we ever wanted to know about pigeons and the people who obsessively love and hate them.
It was Woody Allen who popularised the idea of pigeons as flying rats, in his 1980 film Stardust Memories. He saw a pigeon in his apartment and panicked.
“It’s not pretty at all. They’re, they’re, they’re rats with wings! …It’s probably one of those killer pigeons … You see? It’s got a swastika under its wings.”
Blechman explains the widespread hatred of the urban pigeon. It’s all to do with poo. Pigeons gather in large flocks in cities. City buildings provide them with nooks and crannies for nesting, and there’s plenty of leftover food scraps around for them to eat. So they live comfortably and the droppings just keep piling up. And up.
Some statistics: “The average pigeon produces over twenty-five pounds of droppings a year. At some urban nesting sites, the accumulated crap can be measured in tons.”

So because of this situation
“the peaceful coexistence between man and pigeon, which lasted for thousands of years, has deteriorated into a war of attrition. The urban pigeon, regardless of its remarkable past and incredible physiology, is now considered a feathered outlaw.”
Seen like this, the problem is one we gardeners are keenly aware of - and blog about often: how to look after our wildlife, maintain biodiversity in our cities, suburbs and rural areas, and work out a balance between their needs and ours?
Would any of you non vegetarians out there care for a slice of (sustainably sourced of course) pigeon pie?

Thursday, 16 April 2009


One of the joys of being away is coming back and seeing how the garden has changed in my absence.

Before I left I frantically transplanted and re-transplanted. I think I’ve got a new structure that will work – for a while anyway. It’s rained over the last week, and the immigrants are established in their new homes. It’s a tough call. The plants and I can never predict whether their lives will be nomadic, settled or even snuffed out completely.

I am finding that one big challenge in garden design is to know when to use symmetry. You need it sometimes, to define a comforting space and to stop it looking a random mess. But when you don’t want it, it takes a deliberate effort to defy the seemingly natural human urge to symmetry.

This reminds of something Edna Walling once did. She was planting a number of trees in a garden. She got a bag of potatoes, stood at one end of the garden, and threw the potatoes across the area to be planted. Wherever a potato landed, that was where she planted a tree.

Monday, 13 April 2009


I just got back from a week’s holiday at Cape Leveque, about 250 kms north of Broome on the west coast of Australia. It had all the ingredients I needed for a perfect break: nature, remoteness and time without plans or commitments.

I have been pondering on the relationship between “wild” vegetation and “purposeful” gardening. The process of gardening fulfils and sharpens my aesthetic senses and makes me feel good. Being away from cities and farms has the same effect.

While away I got ideas, inspiration and pleasure from

- Fauna: kangaroos, birds, sea creatures, insects, crocodiles

- Flora: trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers

- Colours: sand, sea, sky

- Sounds: sea, birdcalls, wind

- Texture: bark, rocks

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

myers-briggs in the garden

I’m not a psychologist, but I have used the Myers-Briggs test in a work setting and found it interesting and useful. It is actually quite complicated and I don’t pretend to understand the fine details.

This is how Wikipedia explains it: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

One of the reasons I like Myers-Briggs is that it values difference. According to this model there are 16 personality types. In a team it is good to have lots of different types because they complement each other. None are better than others, just different ways of viewing and acting in the world.

I’m wondering how this applies to gardeners and garden bloggers. How does my personality type influence the type of gardener I am? And does this explain why out of all the many and varied garden blogs I visit, some, though wonderful and popular, just don’t ‘do’ it for me compared with others?

One personality type is ESTJ – standing for extrovert, sensing, thinking, judging.

The dominant tendency of ESTJs is to order their environment, to set clear boundaries, to clarify roles and timetables, and to direct the activities around them. This is supported by their facility for using past experience in an ordered and systematic way to help organize themselves and others.

Another personality type is INFP – standing for introvert, intuitive, feeling, perceiving.

The dominant tendency of the INFP is toward building a rich internal framework of values and toward championing human rights. They often devote themselves behind the scenes to causes such as civil rights or saving the environment.

I imagine that the ESTJ type would be very interested in the scientific names of plants and would have a fairly formal, or at least well organized, garden. Whereas the INFP would be thinking about the garden within the broader environment, and place emphasis on seeing the garden as a haven for wildlife.

My personality type is INTJ, which combines elements of both of these types. INTJ personality types have long range vision and quickly find meaningful patterns in external events. In fields that appeal to them, they have a fine power to organize a job and carry it through.

This makes sense to me, in relation to seeing my garden making as an extremely long range project. I tend to focus on the broad picture rather than details. I realize that I care more about the total design of the garden than the intrinsic value of the individual component plants that make up the whole picture. And I obsessively look for garden meanings everywhere – in philosophy, history, literature, politics, spirituality, love, life and death.

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